The new-look Brooklyn Nets opened up their first win streak of the post-Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving era with a 102-86 victory over the Hornets Sunday. The win comes after the Nets rallied from 28 points down Friday in Boston, matching the largest comeback in franchise history.
Brooklyn led by as many as 37 points during the decisive win. With that, we offer three takeaways from the performance:
3 key takeaways from Nets' blowout win over Hornets
3. Seth Curry's struggles continue
It's been a rough year for Curry while returning from offseason ankle surgery. The veteran has been in and out of Brooklyn's rotation while struggling to find his rhythm in the offense. After the Nets reset their timeline with the trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, many assumed Curry would be moved at the deadline given his advanced age and expiring contract.
However, general manager Sean Marks opted to hold onto the guard. Over his last nine games coming into Sunday, Curry had shot just 26-of-61 (42.6 percent) from the field and 8-of-32 (25 percent) from three. Those struggles continued in a big way against Charlotte as he shot 0-of-8 from the field in 16 minutes.
Despite becoming the youngest player in NBA history to score 40-plus points in three straight games last month, Cam Thomas played just seven minutes in each of the last two games. Curry has played more than double that. Edmond Sumner has also been benched in favor of the 32-year-old despite several high-level performances prior to the deadline. A performance like Sunday will test head coach Jacque Vaughn’s commitment to that arrangement.
2. Nets build on high-level defensive performance in Boston
Brooklyn's lackluster defense was the main storyline during the new-look roster's first eight games. Despite the additions of Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets ranked 29th in defensive rating during that span while allowing 121.4 points per game. Those struggles reached a boiling point Wednesday when the Knicks scored 142 points in the crosstown rivalry Wednesday, the most the Nets have ever allowed to New York.
Brooklyn responded with an impressive defensive showing against the third-ranked offense in the league in Boston Friday, holding the Celtics to 105 points while forcing 19 turnovers. The Nets continued that improvement against a far inferior opponent Sunday, holding the Hornets to 41 points on 15-of-43 (34.9%) shooting in the first half. That marks the fewest points Brooklyn has allowed in a half this season.
The high level of effort and engagement was noticeable for a team that has frequently played down to the level of their competition in recent seasons. Brooklyn would limit Charlotte to 33-of-88 (37.5 percent) shooting from the field and 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from three for the night.
1. Mikal Bridges continues his offensive breakout
Bridges has been a revelation since stepping into a lead scoring role with the Nets. The 26-year-old set a career-high with 45 points during a Feb. 15 win over Miami and dropped 38 against one of the top defenses in the league in Boston Friday. Bridges continued his breakout against Charlotte, scoring 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from three.
The forward singlehandedly opened up a sizable Nets lead in the first quarter, scoring 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting. That marks the highest-scoring quarter of Bridges' career, breaking the total (17) he set during the fourth quarter of his explosion against the Heat.
MIKAL BRIDGES CAN'T MISS.
17 PTS on 8/8 FG in the first quarter 😱
— NBA (@NBA) March 5, 2023
As has become common during his short time in Brooklyn, Bridges worked to his spots with ease, torching Charlotte's defense in the mid-range. The performance marks his fourth time scoring 30-plus in nine games with the Nets after reaching the total just twice during four-and-a-half years in Phoenix. Bridges has turned heads across the league as a lead scorer in Brooklyn, averaging 26.1 points on 53.6 percent shooting from the field and 5o.0 percent from three.